Juliet Macur | November 3, 2014
Notre Dame Alumnus Ryan Shay '02 was one of the top marathoners in the United States when he died seven years ago this Monday during the Olympic trials in Central Park. He collapsed five and a half miles into that race — at a spot Stephan would pass near the end of Sunday’s marathon — and died of a massive heart attack brought on by an enlarged and scarred heart.
In the years since then, this year’s New York City Marathon loomed for Stephan Shay, who was an elite runner himself. Long ago, he realized that he would be 28 for this year’s race, the same age his brother had been when he died here.
Stephan, the youngest of the eight Shay children, who all ran, was a college runner at Brigham Young University when Ryan died. Just like that, his close friend, his idol and his mentor, the brother who had helped him with training and with his career, was gone.
Stephan has fought through the tough times by remembering the good ones. Like the time after high school, in 2004, when Stephan spent a summer training with Ryan and other elite marathoners in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He was just a kid brother, running with some of the world’s top athletes — including Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor — with Ryan as his guide. Between workouts, he and Ryan would go on what Stephan called mini-adventures, sometimes fishing for golden trout, other times exploring.
He said the best moment was when he and Ryan drove up a steep mountain they’d seen on their runs. As rain started to fall, their small pickup truck swayed on the slippery, windy road as Stephan begged Ryan to turn around.